SB 1215 (Lucas), as originally drafted, would require the Commonwealth to compensate its public-school teachers at a rate that is competitive, defined in current law as at or above the national average teacher salary, in order to attract and keep highly qualified teachers. Currently, the Code of Virginia declares it the policy of the Commonwealth to compensate public school teachers at such competitive rate but does not require it. According to the bill’s fiscal impact statement, National Education Association (NEA) data indicates that the national average teacher salary in FY 2021 was $65,293 and that Virginia’s average salary was $58,506. The fiscal impact to the state of these bills as originally drafted is indeterminate, but for the context, the cost of the state share of providing a 5 percent compensation supplement for all SOQ funded instructional and support positions in each year of the current biennium is approximately $230 million in FY 2023 and $530 million in FY 2024. Additionally, the bill would require local school divisions to provide the local share required to match any additional state funds based on each division’s local composite index. Local school divisions would also have to provide the full cost for any positions employed above the SOQ funded for instructional positions. Whereas for the current salary supplements in this biennium, there is no requirement on localities to raise salaries other than they must do so by at least 2.5 percent, and up to 5 percent, in each year of the biennium in order to access the state share of such a raise in each year, if they so choose.
The House Appropriations Committee unanimously agreed, and reported on a vote of 21-0, to substitute language that eliminates these mandates on state and local governments. The new language requires the Virginia Department of Education to convene a workgroup of relevant stakeholders to examine the issue of competitive compensation of elementary and secondary school teachers and make recommendations to the Chairs of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees by November 1, 2023. A similar bill, HB 1566 (Rasoul), was left in House Appropriations.
VACo supports voluntary incentives that encourage localities to increase teacher salaries to reflect the national average in compensation, if this is done without a required minimum local match. The state share of compensation for the base rate of salaries should reflect the actual average salary as determined by prevailing local practice.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett